Coronavirus-hit Bermondsey care home says lack of testing made it impossible to tell who had virus

Josh Salisbury (03 September, 2020)

At least 34 people died from coronavirus at Tower Bridge, while another 21 are thought to have recovered

38641Image: Tower Bridge Care Home

Bermondsey’s Tower Bridge care home which recorded more than half of Southwark’s coronavirus care home deaths says a lack of testing complicated their efforts to battle the outbreak.

At least 34 people have died from coronavirus at Tower Bridge care home, more than half of the borough’s sixty care home residents who had sadly died by mid-July.

This is the highest of any care home in Southwark for which data exists. The home found itself on the coronavirus front-line with an outbreak on March 12, weeks before a national lock-down was ordered.

It says at the time the government was advising that coronavirus posed no threat to care homes – despite residents being in high-risk categories from the virus.

A lack of testing also made it impossible to tell who had the virus. This meant that some who passed had coronavirus listed on their death certificate, without a positive coronavirus test.

READ MORE: More than half of all Southwark care home coronavirus deaths occurred at Bermondsey home, report finds

“We are deeply saddened to have lost 34 residents from Tower Bridge care home during this unprecedented public health emergency, including some who died in hospital having sadly acquired [the] virus there,” said a spokesperson for the home.

“Every death is a tragedy for the individual’s family and is also deeply felt by our colleagues … our thoughts and sympathies are with all families who have lost a loved one from coronavirus.”

Workers contained the outbreak “to only one unit in the home,” said a spokesperson for HC-One which runs the centre.

“21 other residents who were suspected to have had coronavirus have recovered,” he said.

“This is an invisible virus and through much of the peak of the pandemic there was little to no testing available, particularly at the time this home was affected, which made it exceptionally challenging to manage when we didn’t know who did and did not have the virus.

“It is important to recognise that the information the country and care providers have about the virus today did not exist at the time of the outbreak at Tower Bridge, and the guidance issued by the Government changed more than 20 times during April and May.”

Image of coronavirus tests / stock

Although unions had raised concerns that PPE was not properly dished out to workers in Southwark’s homes because of supply problems, Tower Bridge says it stockpiled PPE from early March.

As the News reported, the home also ‘locked-down’ to non-essential visitors weeks before a national lockdown.

Action to prepare for coronavirus began in February, and ramped up in early March, say home officials, through PPE stockpiles, action plans and reduced social contact.

SOUTHWARK CARE HOME DEATHS:
  • Greenhive – 6
  • Queens Oak Care – 12
  • Rose Court – 7
  • Tower Bridge Care Centre – 34
  • Waterside – 1
    Total: 60

Now thoughts have turned to preventing a second wave – and officials at HC-One, which runs the home, say they have learned the lessons of the past six months.

“As we navigate the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic we have a comprehensive coronavirus protection plan in place which has captured all of the lessons we have learned from homes across the country over the past six months,” a spokesperson for the home told the News.

“We are also working closely with local public health authorities to make sure our colleagues are routinely tested, which is particularly important as national lockdown measures ease and the economy continues to open.”

The spokesman added: “We are proud of our colleagues and how they have risen to the challenge of coronavirus by showing huge dedication and commitment to our residents.

“We are also grateful to relatives for their ongoing support and understanding.”

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